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Bart Got A Room
Your April Unrandom Movie Club results are in!



PIZZA: Big Mama's and Big Papa's


Danny Stein (Steven Kaplan)
BART GOT A ROOM (don't let the title foolya, Bart is hardly in the movie at all) is a charming and funny movie. A high school senior, Danny Stein (Steven Kaplan), needs a prom date. Confused about the whole love thing, Danny turns down the invite from his best friend for half of his life, Camille (Alia Shawkat), in favor of...anyone else. The hot cheerleader, the Asian whose writing assignments are borderline porn and whose prom rules are insane, and a blind date set up by friends. Anyone but Camille. But you see, that's a real life moment. It's your prom, and that picture, well, it lasts forever. And the legacy of what happens that evening as well. Why not try for the hot chick? Not that Camille isn't hot (especially if you have a thing for freckles), she's just kinda...like family. I mean, they met when they were nine. Plus all the guys are renting hotel rooms for the night. What would Danny do with his friend Camille? Play a drunken game of Boggle?


What I'm trying to say is that this scenario has played out in high schools since proms were held in caves and boys asked girls by hitting them over the head with clubs. But we don't have to go back that many years, as BART is a fictionalized version of actual events that happened to writer/director Brian Hecker. I myself am not a prom promoter, as I never went to mine. By that time, I was already years into my career as an anti-traditionalist snob, but I digress...

So Danny's confused and Camille's hurt, and it doesn't help either of them that they are running the prom committee. They seem to always be blowing up balloons, making centerpieces and reporting on the prom as they co-anchor their school's morning bulletins. Also not making things easier, the pressure Danny's feeling from every angle. His friend Craig (Brandon Hardesty) is the one who plants the bigness of the evening into Danny's brain. Even Danny's relatives chime in, with his grandmother (I'm guessing) verbally pecking at him (as all Jewish grandmothers must do) - "ya got a cute girlfriend??", and his grandfather (also guessing) declaring at the breakfast table; "Cause that's a big night! I lost my virginity that night!"

Danny's parents have recently divorced, which means they too are looking for their own versions of prom dates. His mom Beth (Cheryl Hines, Larry David's CURB ex-wife) has settled on Bob (character actor Joe Polito, who is in the movie because he's in everything ever made). And while she seems to have settled less on looks and more on pragmatism, Dad Ernie (William H. Macy, the highlight of the movie, chewing up the scenery just right), plays the numbers game, even going so far as chatrooms. Ernie's a bit tilted, often offering his son less than appropriate advice. He brings a lot of his dates (they don't seem to make it to Date 2...even Jennifer Tilly!) with him when he sups with Danny. Like his son, Ernie is trying to snag something, and perhaps as Danny's prom clock ticks, so does Ernie's middle-aged-ness. Talking about his own upcoming blind date, Ernie, who is now desperate, says, "She may turn out to be hideous, but at this point...you know..." SIDENOTE: The deadpan looks on his dates' faces as Macy delivers his lines are killer funny.


BART takes place in Hollywood Florida, a place I'm more than familiar with. Home of Early Bird specials and retired Jews in golf carts or walkers and pants-suited women waiting on deli lines for sturgeon. It's Alta-Caca-Ville. The look of the film, with its abundance of flamingos (or are they egrets?) and Deco pastels (the wardrobe, too), forced me to think this was a period piece at first (the cell phone was the giveaway). And that goes for the music as well, opening up with Danny and his school orchestra playing Louis Prima's SING SING SING in the bandshell by the beach for whoever happens to be there to listen. Hell, Danny even takes care of himself while I'M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU plays on the soundtrack.

So Danny is stuck, not just in this town where he's reminded it's not uncommon to see someone leaving their house in an ambulance (sometimes even in a body bag), but he's also just plain stuck. Case in point; when his geeky car breaks down, he transports himself by riding his geeky bike, which also breaks down. He can only get so far in this geriatric town. So yeah, Danny's stuck in general, but the prom, that's more pressing at the moment.

For his first choice, Danny shoots miles over his head with Alice, a cheerleader he drives to school every day, who tells him that he's like his car - "a reliable old Buick." Alice is played by Ashley Benson, who made BART between movies BRING IT ON: IN IT TO WIN IT and FAB FIVE: THE TEXAS CHEERLEADER SCANDAL, making her the go-to cheer-actor. But does he have a shot? Alice has told Danny what a nice guy he is, and even hinted about the prom. She's also reading (highlighting the Cliff's Notes, actually) ROMEO AND JULIET, and feels comfy enough to change her clothes in the car while Danny drives. And let's not discount the way she works her Baskin Robbins cone. But she turns him down in a scene borrowed from Woody's PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM ("How did I misread those signs?").

His friends, chunky Craig and rail-thin Abby (Garfunkel and Oates member Kate Micucci) set him up on a blind date, cautioning him that whatever he does, do not be late. So our little mensch shows up 45 minutes early.

Newcomer Kaplan plays Danny like a pro. So much of a role like this is reaction over action, which is harder, says me. But Kaplan, a young Patrick Dempsey/Michael Imperioli mutt, is comfortable with the character (perhaps he can relate), so he does fine carrying this movie. But the big credit goes to writer/director Brian Hecker. I have no idea who he is and why he's only made one film. Well, I suppose he's only made one film because with BART, they didn't even turn the radar on for it to fly under. In spite of that, Hecker made a completely amiable movie, and though it doesn't exactly conquer new countries, I laughed out loud many times.

Danny (Steven Kaplan), Ernie (William H Macy) and Beth(Cheryl Hines)
BART, which had a limited theatrical release in 2009, is a short (79 minutes, and 10% of that is end credits) and sweet movie obviously influenced by Woody Allen (Cheryl Hines sure seems to be wearing a Mia Farrow wig and Macy a Tony Roberts one) and John Hughes (lots of SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL/PRETTY IN PINK here). But I'd say Hecker learned (and took) from them while keeping the tone of the movie just right. So yes, hijinks ensue (perhaps it's more like mediumjinks), but not to AMERICAN PIE boiling points. BART's tone is movie-exaggerated. Sure, Macy is over the top at times, but it's all very digestible.
The only times I thought this movie went a bit too far was when Danny's mom buys her son a hotel room for prom night and his dad buys him a hooker for a prom date. Though I may buy the former (since mom learns that even Bart, the campus hobbledehoy, got a room), I have a really tough time with Ernie buying a hooker for his kid's prom date. But it doesn't matter, because BART is chockablock with little moments. I particularly loved one of Ernie's date's babies in that odd hoodie.

Here's the trailer: http://tinyurl.com/cbc3rr


BFS 02
This is sort of a PSA, but it's not. It's more like an instructional film, or maybe training film or an educational film. Whatever it was meant to be, it's one of the oddest things I've seen in a long time. What makes it so nuts is that this short is acted by actors who don't really seem to be actors...and if they're not, well, they don't seem like real people either. Confused? So am I. The combination of the way everyone speaks and moves - the overall woodeness - as well as the lengthy (practically real time) scenes give BOOKED FOR SAFEKEEPING a parallel universe feel.

The half-hour short recreates New Orleans police officers dealing with mentally ill people, like the woman stealing fruit or the man who locks himself in his apartment with a knife, sure that those damn neighbors are after him.

BFS 10 The Heavy Heavy Mob

BFS 11 Lets Be Friends

BFS 13 Not Friends

BOOKED FOR SAFEKEEPING was written and directed by George Stoney, who was a documentary film teacher at NYU when I was there. I just looked him up. He's 96 and still active in the film community. There's even a George Stoney Award each year.

The moral of the story - patience, talking and reasoning will help diffuse the violent actions of disturbed people. But the truth is, after watching this movie, I'm a little disturbed myself.

Here it is, if you dare: http://tinyurl.com/3tgq42q

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